Democracy: The Unfinished Journey, 508 BC to AD 1993

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9780198273783: Democracy: The Unfinished Journey, 508 BC to AD 1993
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The form of democracy first introduced 2,500 years ago by Kleisthenes--introduced, some scholars say, for his own personal gain--is quite different from what we call democracy today. And yet what was essentially a casual, practical solution to local Greek political difficulties has come to stand virtually unchallenged as the ground for modern political authority, and the questions which the Greeks first raised about the meaning of democratic rule still loom over our political and economic life.
In Democracy, noted author John Dunn and twelve expert contributors trace the extraordinary political career of democracy from its appearance in ancient Greece to its recent resurrection in Eastern Europe. The contributors range far and wide, from ancient Greece to the French Revolution to modern India, to illuminate this enduring form of government. They describe how demokratia (literally, "people power") first developed in Athens, and how it promoted a belief in the radical revisability of traditional assumptions which carried over into scientific breakthroughs of Aristotle, Euclid, and others. They examine the independent Italian city-republics and show how Britain's Leveller movement, which lasted four short years during England's Civil War, introduced the radically innovative idea of political equality. They also discuss how the American revolution brought common people into the affairs of government, not simply as voters but as actual rulers, giving work-a-day people a cultural and social significance they never had before in history; and how democracy has been seen since the Age of Revolutions, surveying political debate from Rosa Luxemburg to Walter Lippman. Finally, several essays take a look at democracy today--how it has failed women, for instance, and what the return of democracy will mean for Eastern Europe.
As the recent collapse of socialism demonstrates, the idea of democracy still holds a powerful attraction for us. In tracing its history across two millennia, this book illuminates the source of that power and explains why it has triumphed so decisively in the modern world.

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This book explains how a casual practical solution to local Greek political difficulties so very long ago has come to stand virtually unchallenged as the ground for modern political authority. It shows how the idea of democracy has kept its power in a world which is utterly different from the world of classical Greece and how the questions which the Greeks first raised about the meaning of democratic rule still loom over human political and economic institutions in a setting in which no modern population can ever rule in practice, day by day, as the Athenian demos ruled.

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About the Editor:
John Dunn is Fellow of Kings College and Professor of Political Theory at Cambridge University.

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